20th century history


“The Mata Hari of the Far East”: Uncovering the Incredible Story of Yoshiko Kawashima in Open Source Intelligence Reports

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The story reads like a tale from a 1930s pulp fiction magazine: A cross-dressing Manchu princess makes a daring a nighttime escape by horseback across the steppes, becomes a spy for the Japanese, poses as a prostitute in opium dens around China and Siberia, is arrested and is executed—all set against the backdrop of the Chinese Revolution of 1912, the Japanese invasion of China, and World War II.

It may sound like fiction, but the true story of the Manchu princess, Yoshiko Kawashima, was of such interest to the United States government in the 1940s that a branch of the Central Intelligence Agency known as the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) avidly gathered information about Kawashima. Among the articles selected and transcribed by the FBIS were three dispatches filed to Reuters from Chungking, China, on April 12, 13, and 14, 1945. They were reported in English Morse by “Correspondent Shen.” Shen opened his first dispatch this way:

“The Mata Hari of the Far East”: Uncovering the Incredible Story of Yoshiko Kawashima in Open Source Intelligence Reports

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